In an interview, Leon Panetta, said despite the efforts to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program, the Iranians have reached a point where they can assemble a bomb in a year or potentially less.
WASHINGTON – If the United States learns that Iran is putting together a nuclear weapon, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta promised “we will take whatever steps are necessary to stop it.”
In an interview with CBS News that aired Monday, Panetta that should Iran decide to move ahead, it could build a nuclear weapon within a year. But if the country – under international sanctions for years because of its nuclear program – possesses fuel enrichment facilities unknown to the United States, he said, a nuke could be forthcoming sooner than expected.
Other than the effect a wild-card secret facility might have on the timeline, Panetta’s estimate on when Iran could develop a nuclear weapon is not out of line with earlier statements by him or his predecessor. In June 2010, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Iran was one to three years away from being able to build a nuclear weapon. As CIA director, Panetta said last year the country was perhaps two years away.
In early December, Panetta said a strike against Iran could have severe consequences, and warned Israel, Iran’s most powerful regional adversary, against unilateral action. Such a strike could set back Iran’s program by a year or two at best, he said.
But in the CBS interview, Panetta said the United States and Israel stand together on the Iranian nuclear weapons issue.
“We share the same common concern,” he said. “The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That’s a red line for us, and it’s a red line obviously for the Israelis.”
No options are off the table when it comes to stopping Iran from arming itself with a nuclear weapon, Panetta said. “If we have to do it,” he said, “we will do it.”
Dec 20, 2011
Related link – http://tinyurl.com/7449nj6
Video Clip Narrative
(CBS News) The U.S. Secretary of Defense said Monday night that Iran will not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. In an interview, Leon Panetta, said despite the efforts to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program, the Iranians have reached a point where they can assemble a bomb in a year or potentially less.
Secretary Panetta spoke with us at the end of an overseas trip during which he reviewed strategy in Afghanistan and formally ended the war in Iraq.
CBS News anchor Scott Pelley caught up with Secretary Panetta on his tour last week of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. On the way home, he boarded the jet nicknamed “The Doomsday Plane.” This is the command post where he and the president would direct a nuclear war. In an interview for “60 Minutes,” we sat down in the compartment where he would execute the commander-in-chief’s orders. Panetta told CBS News that Iran needs only one year to build a nuclear weapon.
As the last American troops roll south to Kuwait, the end of the war in Iraq invites unsettling comparisons to another war America declared over before losing its nerve and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Then as now, Democrats have taken the lead in putting at risk the gains purchased with a trillion dollars, and nearly 4,500 dead and tens of thousands wounded American soldiers.
For all of the obvious differences between the conflicts in Vietnam and Iraq, the effects of an overhasty withdrawal on American prestige promise to be similar. The period following the fall of Saigon in 1975 was one of Soviet expansionist aggression in Latin America and Africa, even as Democratic president Jimmy Carter scolded Americans for their “inordinate fear of communism.” Carter embodied the spirit of national self-loathing and guilty retreat––the “crisis in confidence” as he called it ––seemingly validated by the failure in Vietnam. In his inaugural speech he confessed the nation’s “recent mistakes,” advised us “even our great nation has its recognized limits,” and warned that America can “simply do its best.” This public pusillanimity was also noticed by the clerics in Iran, who began their modern jihad with the overthrow of the Shah, America’s ally abandoned by an administration devoted to “human rights” and disarmament, and addled by specious anti-colonial rhetoric. The mullahs confirmed their contempt for us by sacking our embassy and holding 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
The audacity and success of this assault inspired the other jihadist groups––many trained and funded by Iran––that began attacking more boldly American and Western interests across the globe. The geopolitical lesson of American weakness was also noticed by a Saudi named Osama bin Laden, who preached to his trainees the cultural bankruptcy of America that Vietnam illustrated and that made America vulnerable to Allah’s warriors. “The Americans did not get out of Vietnam,” bin Laden preached, “until after they suffered great losses. Over sixty thousand [sic] American soldiers were killed until there were demonstrations by the American people. [The Americans] won’t stop until we do jihad against them.” After 9/11, bin Laden demanded “the American people to take note of their government’s policy against Muslims. They described the government’s policy against Vietnam as wrong. They should now take the same stand they did previously.” America is a “weak horse,” as bin Laden famously said, noting American retreat from Vietnam, Iran, and Mogadishu, and our failure to retaliate for the other terrorist attacks that culminated in the carnage of 9/11.
Those who quibble with bin Laden’s historical accuracy about these events are missing the point. The perception of American weakness he articulated became a motivator of action, and the same perception is now arising following the withdrawal from Iraq. There is no question that this politically rather than strategically motivated retreat puts at risk whatever gains have been made over the past eight and a half years. A politically fragmented Iraq is faced with myriad problems and dysfunctions. It is ruled by a Shia clique that in the absence of American power is unlikely to respect the autonomy and rights of Sunni and Kurdish Iraqis. Sectarian violence is already accelerating. Al Qaeda and other violent terrorist outfits are still active, and will no doubt step up their attacks on sectarian enemies, foreign workers, and oil facilities. Shia Islamists like Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mumahidoon party, virulently anti-American and backed by Iran, are likely to become a more powerful force in Iraq after the Americans are gone, either dominating the government or forming a Hezbollah-like autonomous state-within-a-state. Not encouraging are the billboards that have sprung up in Baghdad showing al-Sadr trampling a U.S. flag.
Moreover, the government is incapable of meeting these threats given what Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, deputy commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, calls “security gaps,” including “their air sovereignty, their air defense capability, the ability to protect the two oil platforms, and then the ability to do combined arms operations for an external defense, synchronizing their infantry with their armor, with their artillery, with their engineers.” Given these security weaknesses, increasing sectarian and terrorist violence abetted by Iranian support and meddling will create the conditions for any number of outcomes inimical to American interests, whether state collapse, a Syria-like grinding civil war, a nakedly Islamist government, another Saddam Hussein, or increased sanctuaries for jihadist organizations.
Whatever the outcome, the big winner will be Iran, whose regional influence will increase in the vacuum created by America’s retreat, just as the Soviet Union was emboldened in its geopolitical rampage by our withdrawal from Indochina. Iran’s leadership is already trumpeting the withdrawal as a sign of American “failure” in Iraq, a “good omen for the Islamic ummah, especially for revolutionary nations,” as the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei put it, but a “day of humiliation” for America, according to the Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami. Iranian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Hassan Firouzabadi made the implications more explicit: “The American soldiers had no other choice than to leave Iraq, and this is the beginning of all American forces withdrawing from the region and the people’s intolerance of these ambassadors of death, colonialism, and plundering.” Of course, the nation that will benefit the most from this “failure” and “humiliation” will be Iran, with its deep ties to Iraq’s Shia population and its record of strong support for the jihadist groups destabilizing the region.
Just as Jimmy Carter embodied the delusional idealism and failure of nerve that weakened America after 1975, so too Barack Obama has damaged American prestige and invited further aggression with his rush to leave Iraq and his failure to negotiate vigorously for a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq. Of course political self-interest played a big role in this act of appeasement. Obama campaigned on the promise that he would end the “dumb” war in Iraq, calling the surge in troops a “reckless escalation.” Given his serial failures to keep his other campaign promises like shutting down Guantanamo and ending military tribunals, Obama saw an opportunity in American war-weariness to keep at least this one promise, and he wasn’t going to let any difficulties in negotiating America’s post-withdrawal presence in Iraq get in his way.
But accompanying these political interests was Obama’s ideology of American guilt and inevitable decline, and the disbelief in American “exceptionalism,” to be replaced by a vision in which America is merely a global “partner mindful of his own imperfections,” as candidate Obama wrote in Foreign Affairs. Yet the rest of the world sees these pronouncements for what they really are––as signs of American retreat and weakness sure to invite further aggression. And we know what the most likely source of this aggression will be: an emboldened, oil-rich Iran, already killing our citizens and supporting our enemies, and increasingly likely soon to be in possession of nuclear weapons.
US President Barack Obama’s half-hour tête-a- tête with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Washington Friday, Dec. 16, was vitally concerned with the coming steps in the Syrian showdown and the latest developments in the controversy over Iran’s nuclear weapons program,DEBKAfile’s Washington and intelligence sources report.
Their conference was urgent because key events in the Middle East this week made early decisions necessary on both these issues.
Termination of the US military mission in Iraq has powerful ramifications for Israel, Iran and Syria as well as Iraq itself.From Tehran’s standpoint, the US military departure has removed a formidable obstacle from Israel’s path to an attack on its nuclear installations: the US Air Force’s control of Iraqi skies. Cleared of this shield, Iraqi air space offers Israel an open corridor for its air force to reach Iran without hindrance. Overflights through any other country, such as Saudi Arabia, would have been contingent on their governments’ cooperation in the anti-Iran offensive.
Tehran delayed releasing word of the capture of the US stealth RQ-170 drone until Dec. 4, timing it for the final month of the US troop drawdown from Iraq, in order to demonstrate to Israel – and not just America – that the sophisticated electronic resources which downed the RQ-170 over the Afghanistan-Iranian border were still available to Tehran for downing Israeli flights entering Iraqi air space. Therefore, Israel’s air force could no longer be sure of safely breaching Iraqi air space for its attack.
To put another spoke in Israel’s plans for striking Iran, Tehran used Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s visit to Washington (Dec. 12-13 ) for sending the US President a conciliatory message: The Islamic rulers were willing to clear the air with the Obama administration and broach areas of discord – notwithstanding the ill will generated by the allegations of an al-Qods Brigades plot to murder the Saudi ambassador to Washington and the captured American stealth drone’s intrusion into their airspace.
Iran reinforced the message of good will posted through al Maliki by four additional steps:
1. Monday, Dec. 12, its intelligence minister Heider Moslehi traveled to Riyadh and held talks with Saudi Crown Prince Nayef and intelligence chief Prince Muqrin. This was Tehran’s way of informing Washington, say DEBKAfile sources, that Saudi Arabia was acceptable for a role in helping to reset the relationship, while Turkey, Obama’s choice, was not.
2. Wednesday, Dec. 14, a Revolutionary Guards officer Gholamreza Jalali announced that most of ran’s nuclear facilities had been relocated underground. Therefore, “Our vulnerability in the nuclear area has reached the minimum level,” he said.
This information was intended to strengthen the Obama administration’s argument that the odds on an Israeli attack on Iran having useful results had plummeted again.
3. Friday, Dec. 16, Iran’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi stated: “Within the next two months, the first fuel plate which is produced with the 20 percent enriched uranium will be placed in Tehran’s research reactor.”
Translation: Iran is complying with President Obama’s requirement that Iran’s highly-enriched uranium be set aside for research – not a nuclear bomb.
4. Saturday, Dec. 17, North Korea was reported to have agreed to suspend its enriched-uranium nuclear weapons program and Washington agreed to provide Pyongyang with up to 240,000 tonnes of food aid.
Since Iran and North Korea habitually walk in step on their nuclear strategy, Pyongyang’s compliance with Washington’s key demand may be taken as a pointer to the Islamic Republic’s willingness to slow uranium enrichment in stages that match the lifting of sanctions.
The Syrian question loomed large in the Obama-Maliki talks this week because the US military’s exit from Iraq opens another corridor, this one for Iran to exploit for the convenience of a direct military route to Syria for its warplanes and military vehicles.
The US president insisted emphatically that the Iraqi prime minister must not let this happen. Maliki refused to give any promises, excepting only that Baghdad would line up behind Arab League policy on the Assad regime and not violate the sanctions the League has imposed on Damascus.
In his briefing to Tehran, Maliki was able to report that while Obama was willing to look at Iran’s proposals for slowing uranium enrichment, he would not hear of easing the pressure on President Bashar Assad.
What this means is that the door has been opened for Tehran to try and mend its fences with Washington – provided the ayatollahs are willing to throw Assad to the wolves. Before moving ahead on this, the Iranians will no doubt demand guarantees against an American or an Israeli attack on their nuclear program.
Israel’s strategic state of health has taken a serious beating from these developments, its options against Iran shrinking substantially and the opening for military action narrowing.
The removal of most of Iran’s nuclear facilities below ground, President Obama’s willingness to heed conciliatory feelers from Tehran, and Baghdad’s assumption of the role of go-between for Washington and Tehran are all bad news for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his defense minister.
Iran has again contrived to buy time and leeway for bringing its nuclear weapons program to completion.
Even the option of a clear run through Iraq for Israeli warplanes to strike Iran is likely to be short-lived: Tehran, which controls the Iraqi prime minister, will lose no time in placing its electronic warfare and intelligence systems in position for shutting that corridor to Israel.
Israel’s vanishing options on Iran topped Ehud Barak’s conversation with Barack Obama in Washington on Friday.
Two days ago one of the greatest intellect of our time, Christopher Hitchens has died at age 62 following a diagnosis of esophageal cancer in june 2010. He was known as an unshakable Atheist, he believed with certainty that an ethical life can be lived without religion. I have been a fan of his work, I enjoyed reading his book entitled “The God is not Great”. My condolence to all his fans. This is a video clip of his debate with Tony Blair on Religion. [Mansur Rastani]
For information on life and death of Christoppher Hitchens refer to the following links:
- Richard Lea. “Christopher Hitchens dies aged 62” — The Guardian, December 16, 2011
- James Robertson. “Christopher Hitchens dead” — Sydney Morning Herald, December 16, 2011
- “Christopher Hitchens dies after battle with cancer” — BBC News, December 16, 2011
- Nicholas Shakespeare. “Christopher Hitchens: a noble contrarian” — Daily Telegraph, December 16, 2011
- Arthur MacMillan. “British writer Christopher Hitchens dead at 62” — AFP, December 16, 2011
- Juli Weiner. “In Memoriam: Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011” — Vanity Fair, December 15, 2011
- Grayon Carter. “Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011: In Memoriam” — Vanity Fair, December 15, 2011
- Christopher Hitchens. “Faith-Based Fraud” — Slate, May 16, 2007
- Christopher Hitchens. “Mommie Dearest” — Slate, October 20, 2003
Expanded Russian military and diplomatic support for the Assad regime was underscored by the deployment Friday, Dec. 16, of advanced Moscow-supplied Yakhont (SSN-26) shore-to-sea missiles along Syria’s Mediterranean shore to fend off a potential Western-Turkish invasion by sea. Last week, Russia airlifted to Syria 3 million face masks against chemical and biological weapons and the Admiral Kutznetsov carrier and strike group was sent on its way to Syria’s Mediterranean port of Tartus.
Russian naval sources in Moscow stressed that the flotilla is armed with the most advanced weapons against submarines and aerial attack. Upon arrival,
the Russian craft will launch a major marine-air maneuver in which Syrian units will take part.
Syria has received from Russia 72 Yakhont missiles able to hit marine targets up to a distance of 300 kilometers – i.e., over the horizon, our military sources report. The missile’s radar remains inert, making it hard to detect, until it is close to target. It is then switched on to guide its aim.
Its high speed – 2,000 kmh – enables the Yakhont to strike before its target has time to activate self-defense systems.
Thursday night, in response to the deployment of 21 Syrian Scuds on the Turkish border, including five with chemical warheads, Ankara convened its top military council and declared its armed forces ready for war. Syria also rushed armored reinforcements to the Jordanian border.
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that the rush of Syrian war moves backed by Russia indicates that both believe a Western-Arab force is on the point of invading Syria. They are keeping an eye especially on Turkey which is suspected of having obtained a NATO marine and air umbrella, including the US Sixth Fleet, for military preparations aimed at ousting Bashar Assad, so repeating the operation against Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi.
The diplomatic flurry around Syria was accentuated by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s arrival in Ankara Friday morning to find Turkish armed forces on war preparedness, and Syrian Vice President Farouk A-Shara’s landing in Moscow for a crisis conference with Russian leaders.
Thursday night, Dec. 15, DEBKAfile reported:
War tensions around Syria rose alarmingly Thursday night, Dec. 15, when Turkey’s top military council convened “to review the armed forces’ preparedness for war” in response to the deployment of Syrian missiles, some tipped with chemical warheads, on their common border. DEBKAfile’s military sources report the meeting was led by Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
The Assad government also rushed armored units in two directions – to the Turkish frontier and also to the Jordanian border opposite the US special operations units from Iraq newly deployed to defend Jordan against a Syrian attack, as DEBKAfile reported on Dec. 13.
Our sources report that 21 Syrian missile launchers, five of them Scud D with chemical warheads, are deployed in northern Syria opposite the Turkish Hatai (Alexandretta) district. They were moved up in broad daylight to make sure Western spy satellites and Turkish intelligence surveillance saw them. More are on the way.
In Israel, the IDF announced it was reconstituting the special command for operations behind enemy lines under the command of Brig. Gen. Shay Avital.
Before the military council convened in Ankara, Turkey placed its border contingents, air force and navy on war preparedness.
The official statement said the high military council had “assessed Turkish army needs and necessary steps to address these requirements…”
The Turkish press repeated a statement by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in an interview two weeks ago that Turkey does not want to consider a military option for intervention in neighboring Syria as Damascus cracks down on popular protest, but it is ready for any scenario.
The Turkish army has prepared operational plans for seizing parts of northern Syria if the situation there continues to deteriorate. Those plans would essentially carve Syria into two entities, with the Turkish army holding the north and protecting opposition and civilian populations, while the Syrian army and Assad loyalists would remain in control of the central and southern regions.
PARIS — The exiled son of the toppled shah of Iran said Thursday he plans to ask the United Nations to bring Iran’s supreme leader before the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity.
Reza Pahlavi is among exiles working for regime change in Iran. He said at a Paris news conference that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei must be held responsible for the executions, jailing and torture of political dissidents.
Pahlavi’s father, the late Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, was ousted in the 1979 Islamic Revolution that installed a clerical hierarchy. The ultimate leader of the government
running the country now is Khamenei.
Iran has not ratified the Rome statute that established the International Criminal Court, the world’s permanent war crimes tribunal, known as the ICC. It is therefore not subject to the court’s jurisdiction — unless the Security Council decides to step in and refer Iran to the court as it did in the case of Libya.
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, asked about Pahlavi’s announcement, said “citizens around the world are learning to request the court’s intervention.”
“In this sense, I think it’s great to show people who are looking for justice. Now they know how to do it. We are providing a new institution to the world, to make the world better,” Ocampo told a news conference in New York.
President Obama deserves credit for authorizing the execution of Osama bin Laden and for significantly intensifying the drone campaign against terrorists [No he does not!-DID]. He’s largely stopped romanticizing the Palestinians; has recognized that Putin made an ass of him; and has even hinted that he might stand up to China on some issues. But even if he turns into a combination of Ike, Reagan and Carl von Clausewitz in the coming months, his administration’s foreign-policy record will forever be defined by his disastrous rush to leave Iraq—then brag about it.
Does anybody at the White House look at a map? I realize that, thanks to the left’s death-grip on our
education system, we’ve stopped teaching trivial subjects like geography in favor of gender studies, but you don’t have to be able to name all 17,000 islands belonging to Indonesia to recognize that simply quitting Iraq opens a terrorist superhighway straight from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, to Lebanon, Hezbollah, northern Israel and the eastern Mediterranean. We could not have given Tehran a greater gift at a worse time.
No, Iraq won’t become a mere vassal state of Iran. Given time, the current chummy relations between Tehran and the al-Maliki government (and Moqtada al-Sadr’s subversives) in Baghdad will sour. Persian vanity and racist condescension toward Arabs will revive the age-old hostility in the long term. Right now, though, we need to worry about the short term. And Iran’s current influence in Iraq is sufficient toinsure that terrorists and arms will flow smoothly on their way west—along with Tehran’s support to its one staunch Arab ally, the murderous regime in Syria. No more need for the terrorist mullahs in Tehran to kick up an international fuss by sending cargo ships full of weapons through the Suez Canal. Just drive. On improved roads, courtesy of Uncle Sam.
Obama’s gift to the worst elements within Iraq and to the Islamist junta in Tehran is just stunning. It’s hard to believe that even this man, with his immeasurable vanity and genius for self-adoration, can have done such a foolish thing as to abandon Iraq. Even if we had not spent so much blood and treasure, the strategic importance of Iraq today, amid Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, Arab revolutions, and a global economy that could not bear an oil shock, is so obvious that a stoner drop-out could see it. But all the president’s professors can’t.
The immediate “deal-breaker” issue was the status of our forces—which simply gave Obama an additional excuse to run away. We couldn’t allow our troops to be tried in Iraqi kangaroo courts, and, in the wake of Blackwater’s butchery of Iranian jaywalkers, Iran’s agents in Baghdad were easily able to stir up outrage over the thought of American “criminals” going free in the future. But that was just the superficial cause of our flight from Iraq and from strategic sanity.
At the heart of the problem is that Obama came to office impermeably convinced that toppling Saddam was bad (the inevitable logic must be that Saddam was good, right?) and that our involvement in Iraq was a crime against the Iraqis and theAmerican people alike. No evidence was going to move him off this position. For that matter, I doubt he ever thought about it: This was dogma at its most rigid at work in an academic mind. So, even as Obama embraced one foreign thug after another, our president stiffed Iraq’s pro-American leaders, Kurds, secular Sunnis and rational Shia alike. He never made the least effort to build personal or professional relationships with our key allies within Iraq—the kind of relationships that could have defused the status-of-forces issue. Obama just wanted out.
And so we’ll be out. Congratulations, Mr. President.
I’ve maintained since 2003 that, had Bill Clinton deposed Saddam Hussein, the left would have celebrated him as the greatest liberator since Abraham Lincoln. The problem wasn’t really what we did, but who did it: George W. Bush. Bush-hatred was so rabid on the radical left—Obama’s left—that even ridding the world of a Hitler clone was a “war crime.”
And so Obama finally kept one campaign promise: He “got us out of Iraq.” What’s particularly stunning is that this Oval-Office Narcissus has been willing to betray his leftwing supporters over and over on other issues, from the environment to women’s rights to Guantanamo. But his party-line stance on Iraq permitted no compromise.
So now terrorists can flow in both directions (a threat to Iraq’s stability, as well), while Tehran is convinced that the US has lost its nerve and is in retreat. Obama can speechify all he wants, but Islamist extremists believe that we were driven out—and they’re encouraged. We’ve sacrificed a crucial buffer zone, should an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities result (as it would) in an asymmetrical response that targeted Arab oil infrastructure on the western side of the Persian Gulf. We threw away strategic bases, compromised global oil security, and left our Iraqi allies—such as the Kurds—to fend for themselves. And that terrorist superhighway to Israel’s border makes a mockery of Obama’s professions that we’ve never been so committed to Israel’s defense.
Obama committed a tragic act in Iraq. It will have grim strategic consequences. It’s further disheartening that his would-be challengers from the other party have yet to offer a serious approach to damage control: I hear a great deal of blather, but no practical strategies. Obama built this terrorist superhighway—his administration’s one shovel-ready project—and his challengers can’t think beyond adding rest stops.
Obama didn’t “lose” Iraq. He never even showed up for the game. And our B team’s all cheerleaders and no quarterbacks.
It’s a good day to be an enemy of America.
Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Ralph Peters is a retired Army intelligence officer and former enlisted man; a bestselling and prize-winning novelist; a controversial strategist; and a sometime journalist disenchanted with the media’s endless fear-mongering. His most-recent book is Lines Of Fire, a collection of his best non-fiction writing from the past two decades, and his new novel, Cain at Gettysburg, will be published on February 28th.
President Obama has handled the Drone situation all wrong, lots of questions has raised, how U.S. lost the drone in the first place? Refusing to destroy it is yet worse! And eventually supplicating the IRI to get it back is even more pathetic, which all leads to make the IRI more emboldened than ever.
|Senator Mark Kirk|
The House-Senate conference on the defense authorization bill preserved an amendment imposing strict new sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), despite administration objections and efforts to influence the negotiations.
“The Central Bank of Iran is the primary bankroller of Iran’s global terror network, its nuclear program and other illicit activities. The time has come to collapse this terrorist and proliferation-financing institution,” Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) said in a statement to The Cable Tuesday. “I applaud [House Armed Services Committee] Chairman [Buck] McKeon and Senator [John] McCain for successfully resisting most of the administration’s attempts to weaken the bipartisan Menendez-Kirk amendment. Moving forward, the Congress will need to be more vigilant than ever before in holding the administration’s feet to the fire to collapse the Central Bank of Iran and force international financial institutions to choose between doing business in the U.S. and doing business in Iran.”
Inside the closed door conference on the defense bill, conferees did make some small changes to the Menendez-Kirk amendment, which not only penalizes the CBI but any foreign bank that does business with it. The changes gave the president slightly more flexibility in waiving some of the sanctions on national security grounds, and added the secretary of state and the director of national intelligence as consultants to a future report on how the sanctions will affect the world oil markets.
In a press release Monday night, the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees touted the strength of the new measures.
“The conference report includes a powerful new regime of sanctions against the financial sector of Iran, including the Central Bank of Iran,” the release stated. “These sanctions would, among other actions, require foreign financial institutions to choose between maintaining ties with the U.S. financial system or doing business with the Central Bank of Iran, especially for the purchase of Iranian petroleum and petroleum products. The conference report includes four modifications to the Senate language, but preserves the scope and implementation timeline of the Senate provision.”
The administration had argued publicly and privately against the Menendez-Kirk language, claiming it could alienate certain countries, making it more difficult to isolate Iran, and raise oil prices, which could actually help the Iranian economy. Its opposition to the amendment angered Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who had worked with the administration and Kirk on the sanctions before the administration came out against it.
All 100 senators voted for the Menendez-Kirk amendment, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry (D-MA), who defended the amendment and the administration position simultaneously at a Tuesday morning event hosted by National Journal.
“It’s a matter of timing and process, the administration is moving in that direction but they want to do it on their own schedule,” Kerry said. “If I had been a member of the administration I would have probably have said ‘wait.’ I’m not and I voted the way I voted … it may be helpful to [the administration] and helpful to the country in the long run.”
MOSCOW – Former US secretary of defense William Perry endorsed on Monday Israeli assessments that put Iran’s nuclear weapons program just months away from crossing a point of no return.
He made the comments during a press conference held by the International Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe in Moscow. Asked by The Jerusalem Post to respond to comments made by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to CNN in November, in which he said that in under a year it would be too late to stop Iran, Perry said, “I agree with Barak’s assessment.”
‘Even if it were effective, it would [lead to] a host of unintended consequences, most of them very bad,” he said.
Perry called on Russia and China to join US efforts to pass harsher sanctions on Tehran, adding that the alternative to diplomatic and financial pressure “is much worse.”
Moshe Kantor, president of the Luxembourg Forum, and head of the European Jewish Congress, said six previous rounds of sanctions on Iran did not result in “any cardinal changes in the Iranian position,” and said Russia, the US and China have to cooperate on tougher sanctions in order to avoid a new Middle East conflict.
“Of the 193 member states of the UN, only two openly call for the eradication of other countries from the world map, and one of those is Iran,” Kantor said. He asked how Russia would respond if it was faced with such hostility from another country.
Former IAEA Director-General Hans Blix said the question of a point of no return was “rather immaterial,” adding that the world’s focus should be on persuading Iran to abandon its nuclear activities.
“Already, these activities have increased tensions in the Middle East and the Gulf incredibly. The Arabs are pumping up oil, and the world is sending them airplanes and missile defenses [against Iran] that will be rusty in 20 years,” Blix said.
The former top weapons inspector agreed with other speakers that it was urgent to stop Iran’s nuclear program, but criticized a “knee-jerk” response of calling for military action.
“I don’t think all the carrots have been put on the table,” he said. “There hasn’t been much imagination put into this.”
Blix said he was concerned by the prospect of Israel attacking Iran. “Do they know where the nuclear sites are? How many would be left after an attack? If no sites are left, will there not be prototypes left? Will Iran not be more determined than ever? Do you think the mullahs will sit there and twiddle their thumbs? Or will there be another war in the Middle East?”
The Luxembourg Forum expressed growing concern over obstacles to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation efforts. It focused on the American-Russian dispute over plans to install a NATO missile defense system in Europe – a disagreement that stems directly from Iran’s development of long-range missiles and nuclear program.
The US says the missile defense system is vital for defending western Europe and itself from an Iranian missile threat.
But Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Vladimir Dvorkin, who served as a key Russian arms control negotiator, said during Monday’s press conference that Moscow does “not share the same opinion on the existence of a missile threat. Some believe the missile defense system would be a threat to Russian deterrence capabilities.”
Russia has said it required guarantees before it could consider consenting to the system. The issue has overshadowed American- Russian plans to proceed with a new offensive arms control agreement.